A gay veteran has began a preliminary
look at running for Congress from the Mormon stronghold state of
Gary Barkley, who served a 13-month
tour of duty in Iraq, says he's interested in representing the people
from Utah's 2nd Congressional District, which includes
Saint George, Moab, and portions of Salt Lake County. The seat has
been occupied since 2000 by Democrat Jim Matheson. In 2008, voters
overwhelmingly re-elected Matheson, who won 63% of the vote against
Republican Bill Dew.
“Utah is a great state and I love it
here,” Barkley, who relocated from California with his family at
the age of 8, said. “I have spent most of my life, growing up,
going to school, and working in Utah's 2nd district.”
Barkley, 38, enlisted in the Army in
1995 and rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Utah
Army National Guard.
In Iraq, he served the nation with
distinction, receiving the Army Commendation Medal and the Army
Achievement Medal for outstanding service.
Since returning stateside,
Barkley began speaking out about his experiences in Iraq and
concluded that he wanted to broaden his service to the nation.
Utah remains under the influence of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which became a target of
grassroots gay activists after its overwhelming support of
Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment that yanked
back the right to marry from gay and lesbian couples – most likely
tipped passage of the measure.
Protesters have demonstrated at several
Mormon temples since Election Day.
Barkley, an Obama supporter, agrees
with the protesters, but says that Utahans are fair minded people.
“The people in Utah who would oppose me solely because I am gay
would be the same people who actively worked to pass Proposition 8 in
California,” he wrote in an email to On Top Magazine.
“Because I grew up here, I know the wisdom in the people of Utah:
They are practical and fair.”
But Barkley also says the church went
too far, calling their campaign supporting passage of Proposition 8
“intrusive.” And advocates for repeal of tax free status from
churches who support a political agenda.
During his 14 years of military service
Barkley remained closeted not to run afoul of the military's ban on
open service by gays and lesbians. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” was
instituted by President Clinton two years before Barkley enlisted.
It threatens discharge to gay and lesbian personnel serving in the
armed forces if they do not remain closeted.
“I lived by the letter of the law ...
which states that I could not tell anyone I am gay and no one could
ask me if I am,” he said.
“But I was able to push the envelope
to the point of purposefully placing the idea that I am gay in the
minds of those around me. I wanted to be one more example – among
the many thousands of others – which proves that gay people can
serve effectively and efficiently in the same foxholes as their
straight comrades without causing disruption based on sexual
President Obama has pledged to repeal
the gay ban, but opposition has quickly formed. Opponents of repeal
characterize gay servicemembers as sexual predators. In July, at a
Congressional hearing on the law, Elaine Donnelly, president of the
Center for Military Readiness, testified that lifting the ban would
“sexualize” the military.
“People who make such an argument
betray their ignorance of military culture,” Barkley says. “And
for the most part have never put on a uniform themselves. Anyone who
has served during the era of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' knows better
than to believe that gays are just looking for a hook-up.”
“To be forced to keep something such
as the name of your same-sex partner secret from the guy who has
become your best friend is heartbreaking. And it affects unit
readiness because keeping secrets from each other is never the way to
create unit cohesion. That is why the policy itself is a threat to
good order and discipline: It isolates members of a unit based upon
an artificial and irrelevant basis – sexual orientation.”
Congress currently seats three openly
gay representatives, but no senators. On the state level, over 100
openly gay politicians won elected office during this past election
cycle, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a group
dedicated to increasing the number of qualified openly gay
“Utah is my home, and having grown up
here, I know that a gay candidate can win,” Barkley says.
On the Net: Additional information on
Gary Barkley is at www.barkley4change.org